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Secret Drinker reviews the Kings Head pub, Staplehurst, near Maidstone


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Eight brickies taking a break mid-afternoon, the smell of Chinese food wafting across the patio and a family affair, this pub visit had it all.

I’m sure I’m right in saying the Kings Head is the last remaining boozer in the entire village of Staplehurst, near Maidstone, and, as such, you could argue you don’t have much choice.

This Grade II listed boozer is a member of the Shepherd Neame stable, but there’s a real family history behind this one.

Young Charlie, tending the bar, was proud to tell me his mum runs the place and has done so for about two years now. However, the tenancy is in his uncle’s name.

But, it dates back much further than this – Charlie’s granddad had the pub for 20 years and, although he briefly moved across the road to take charge of The Bell (now closed), the pull of the Kings Head was too strong and he returned.

Our polite and helpful barman says what his mum really wants is to do is make the pub as good as she remembers it as a child.

The Kings Head on the High Street in Staplehurst is the last remaining pub in the village
The Kings Head on the High Street in Staplehurst is the last remaining pub in the village
The outside courtyard is beautifully laid out and, as you must currently enter by the back door, provides a lovely entrance
The outside courtyard is beautifully laid out and, as you must currently enter by the back door, provides a lovely entrance

For now, of course, we have a new set of rules – there’s a strict one-way system round the place and a traffic light card on a nail outside the toilets, strictly one-out, one-in.

You must enter the pub through the back door and turn left to place your order, you then collect your drink further round the bar. But, not before you encounter a local sitting on the ledge of the fireplace behind the pool table – when I ordered Masterbrew he kindly informed me it was a good choice and would ‘keep you regular’.

Mrs SD, who I assume is regular enough, swerved the Shep brew in favour of her traditional Sauvignon Blanc – it was £9.90 for the pair. I can’t think what it was, but something persuaded us we’d rather sit outside. The patio area and smoking shed looked brand new to me but were apparently completed pre-lockdown.

At the back of the pub there’s a large dining room, complete with a newly decorated wall – Charlie says the wine case façade was added while they were closed
At the back of the pub there’s a large dining room, complete with a newly decorated wall – Charlie says the wine case façade was added while they were closed
Beyond the patio and alongside the car park there is a large grassed area – most of the umbrellas available were Spitfire, though I did spot one Whitstable Bay in yellow
Beyond the patio and alongside the car park there is a large grassed area – most of the umbrellas available were Spitfire, though I did spot one Whitstable Bay in yellow

It was here we were entertained by a vanfull of builders abusing each other roundly, swearing reassuringly and generally providing great entertainment. Sadly the brickies left en masse and the place went quiet again.

There must be at least 20 picnic tables out back, mostly on a large grassed area alongside a big car park. It’s been tastefully renovated and the hanging baskets are linked to an automatic watering system. There was a dog bowl available, so although there were none in, I assume mutts are made welcome.

They might not be in use currently but there is a pool table and darts board. There’s also a jukebox and fruit machine, which can be used, but a sign asks you to inform the staff so they can be cleaned afterwards.

The Sunday roast, advertised as coming soon may now be available – please check with the pub. In happier times I’m sure this outside bar does a great trad
The Sunday roast, advertised as coming soon may now be available – please check with the pub. In happier times I’m sure this outside bar does a great trad
Heavily beamed, this Grade II listed pub retains much of its character. There are several TV screens but thankfully it looks as if they remain off when nothing good’s showing
Heavily beamed, this Grade II listed pub retains much of its character. There are several TV screens but thankfully it looks as if they remain off when nothing good’s showing

There were also three TV screens, but thankfully they were all switched off – I hate places displaying boring, pointless nonsense for no reason than to create background noise.

We’d already eaten lunch so didn’t try the food but even with full stomachs I must admit the smells coming from the Chinese restaurant next door and wafting across the patio were incredible. I don’t know if it’s a takeaway or an eat-in restaurant or even if it’s any good – perhaps someone can let me know?

It might be a little disappointing there’s only one pub to visit in a village this size, but if you’ve only got one then it’s important it’s a good one, and the Kings Head is.

The toilet traffic light system is self-explanatory and works well, provided everyone remembers to turn the card over
The toilet traffic light system is self-explanatory and works well, provided everyone remembers to turn the card over
There’s a dartboard and pool table but neither are available for action at the current time – for obvious reasons
There’s a dartboard and pool table but neither are available for action at the current time – for obvious reasons

Kings Head – High Street, Staplehurst, TN12 0AR

Decor: They’ve worked hard on getting the best from this Grade II listed pub, both inside and out. It’s comfortable and welcoming but has retained its character ****

Drink: You will find all the usual Shepherd Neame brews on offer so it’s just a matter of whether these are your choice ***

Price: A pint of Masterbrew will set you back £4.10, while a large glass of white wine was £5.80 ***

Atmosphere: Once the bantering builders clambered back into their van and decided they should go a do a little more work, the pub was much moresedate and less interesting ***

Staff: Charlie, who was chatty and cheery, was more than happy to talk about his family’s history with this centuries old pub ***

I’d be very proud if my log store looked anywhere as neat as this one
I’d be very proud if my log store looked anywhere as neat as this one
The fruit machine and jukebox can be used, but you’re not in charge of the volume and are requested to tell staff so they can be cleaned afterwards
The fruit machine and jukebox can be used, but you’re not in charge of the volume and are requested to tell staff so they can be cleaned afterwards

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The pub’s age means it has smaller windows making the inside a little dark in places but you’re assured a warm welcome
The pub’s age means it has smaller windows making the inside a little dark in places but you’re assured a warm welcome
Strictly one out/one in, the toilets were impeccably presented and fresh smelling
Strictly one out/one in, the toilets were impeccably presented and fresh smelling
One family is determined to make sure the pub survives and thrives
One family is determined to make sure the pub survives and thrives
Not currently needed with the great weather we’re enjoying, but I bet this little log burner chucks out plenty of heat on a chilly winter’s day
Not currently needed with the great weather we’re enjoying, but I bet this little log burner chucks out plenty of heat on a chilly winter’s day
This is a serious smoking shelter and during wetter weather I’m sure it’s well used as a good 90% of the punters were smokers when we were in
This is a serious smoking shelter and during wetter weather I’m sure it’s well used as a good 90% of the punters were smokers when we were in
A large pub dating back to the 1600s, it is very proud of its original inglenook fireplace – mind your head!
A large pub dating back to the 1600s, it is very proud of its original inglenook fireplace – mind your head!
It opened up on the first day after lockdown and is making sure everyone sticks to all the rules, we just popped in but bookings are very welcome
It opened up on the first day after lockdown and is making sure everyone sticks to all the rules, we just popped in but bookings are very welcome
More trendy lightbulbs which look great, I just wish they gave off a bit more light!
More trendy lightbulbs which look great, I just wish they gave off a bit more light!
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